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ASUN Roundup: Conference play has begun and FGCU is red hot

It took only two games of conference play for FGCU to reclaim its pole position.

NCAA Basketball: Florida Gulf Coast at Wichita State Kelly Ross-USA TODAY Sports

It’s that time of the year again when we are gifted four ASUN conference matchups just about every other day. Conference started last Saturday, and we’ve already had blowouts, upsets, shootouts and everything in between.

Let’s start off with this week’s power rankings:

8. USC Upstate Spartans (5-14, 0-2 Conf.)

The Spartans have had an abysmal season thus far, probably thanks in a large part to the retirement of long-time head coach Eddie Payne. They have only beaten one (1) Division I college basketball team this season. The Spartans kept some early-season games close, but have gone off the rails recently. They kept their conference opener against NJIT somewhat close, before losing it in the final seconds, and then got blown out by FGCU at Alico Arena last night.

7. Kennesaw State Owls (4-13, 0-2 Conf.)

I was surprised to notice the Owls sticking with Lipscomb’s high-powered offense in the early part of their game on last Saturday evening. I was equally unsurprised to see that they couldn’t keep pace with the Bisons for the final 25 minutes of the game. Due to Kennesaw State’s lack of depth, starting guards Nick Masterson and Tyler Hooker have been forced to play an exorbitant amount of minutes in their first two ASUN contests. The late-game fatigue from playing only eight men was evident in Thursday’s 65-58 loss to Jacksonville. All signs are pointing to this year being a long one for the college basketball fans in Kennesaw, Georgia.

6. Stetson Hatters (9-9, 1-1 Conf.)

Divine Myles has refused to let the Hatters be the worst team in the conference (thus far). The Hatters lost by a whopping 38 points in their conference opener to FGCU, and that game seemed to pervade the message that this team would be the same old Hatters. Stetson has finished either last or second-to-last in the ASUN for the past four seasons. However, the Hatters were able to earn an 80-67 win at home against NJIT Thursday night. This came after 20 points and 4 assists from Divine Myles, along with 15 points from B.J. Glasford and a surprising 15-point scoring outbreak from junior guard Leo Goodman

5. NJIT Highlanders (9-9, 1-1 Conf.)

The Highlanders entered conference play after narrowly losing to Buffalo and Brown in their final two non-conference games. They opened up their ASUN season by defeating USC Upstate, in the first conference home game at the brand new Wellness and Events Center in Newark. Anthony Tarke, the 6’6 sophomore out of Gaithersburg, Maryland, has been the catalyst for the Highlanders both on offense and defense (15.2 PPG). However, his supporting cast fell short in Thursday’s loss to Stetson, and NJIT fans had better hope that Tarke won’t be forced to do everything on his own this season.

4. Jacksonville Dolphins (8-11, 2-0 Conf.)

The Dolphins have made me eat my words from a few weeks ago when I ranked them last in the ASUN. Jacksonville has been relying on underclassmen all season long, and they have been coming through in the past couple of games. JD Notae led the way against UNF scoring a game-high 25 points and Navy transfer Jace Hogan earned a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. The Dolphins did dig themselves into a 12-point hole against lowly Kennesaw State last night, but were able to come back thanks to some timely shooting by Hogan and Notae.

3. North Florida Ospreys (7-12, 1-1 Conf.)

After the Ospreys have completed their arduous non-conference schedule, they’ve proven themselves to be one of the top offensive teams in the ASUN. This team can score the basketball; there’s no disputing that. After losing to Jacksonville in the aforementioned “River-City Rumble,” the Ospreys were more than ready to welcome Lipscomb to UNF Arena for a Thursday night showdown. North Florida lived up to their “Birds of Trey” nickname by draining 14 shots from behind the arc in an impressive 102-96 victory over the Bisons. Osprey guard Ivan Gandia-Rosa had maybe his best game of the year in the win over Lipscomb, scoring 26 points, 18 of which came in the second half. For the fans who like offense, games down in Jacksonville will be fun to watch this season.

2. Lipscomb Bisons (11-6, 1-1 Conf.)

Yep, as you can tell by the title of this article, the Lipscomb Bisons are no longer the top dog in the ASUN Conference. The 102-96 loss to UNF is enough to drop them to the second spot. As mentioned by the broadcasters of the UNF-Lipscomb game, such a poor of defensive showing is uncharacteristic of the Bisons. Casey Alexander will most certainly be working with his team closing out on three-point shooters, after they surrendered 14 made threes to UNF. A bright spot was the play of Garrison Mathews. Mathews put up a career-high 43 points in the victory over Kennesaw State, and added 32 more in a losing effort against UNF. Matt Rose also presented himself as a viable threat from long range, by surprisingly sinking four threes against the Ospreys.

1. Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (11-8, 2-0 Conf.)

After hitting a bit of a rough patch in their non-conference schedule, the Eagles have bounced back and then some. FGCU is currently on a four-game winning streak, and in their two ASUN matchups so far, their opponents have barely even put up a fight. Their 38-point victory over Stetson was as impressive as the Eagles have looked in years. Led by their excellent guard duo of Brandon Goodwin and Zach Johnson the Eagles have seemed to find themselves again. During losses to FAU, Oral Roberts, and FIU it was apparent that this FGCU team was far better than they were playing like. The resounding victories over Stetson and USC Upstate, coupled with the loss by Lipscomb, are enough to catapult the Eagles back atop the ASUN conference, at least for now.

Player of the Week: Garrison Mathews

It’s hard to even think about anyone else earning player of the week honors when Mathews scored 43 points, which ended up being half his team’s total score for that game, and followed it up with 32 points. Mathews is a scoring machine, and is averaging 22.8 points per game on the season. It’ll be really interesting to see how he matches up against the FGCU defense this coming Thursday.

Shot of the Week:

Brandon Goodwin doing Brandon Goodwin things.

Upcoming Schedule (EST)

Saturday 1/13:

  • USC Upstate @ Stetson - 4 pm
  • Lipscomb @ Jacksonville - 6 pm
  • NJIT @ FGCU - 7 pm
  • Kennesaw State @ UNF - 7 pm

Thursday 1/18:

  • Jacksonville @ USC Upstate - 7pm
  • Stetson @ Kennesaw State - 7 pm
  • North Florida @ NJIT - 7 pm
  • FGCU @ Lipscomb (the one we’ve all been looking forward to) - 7:30 pm